Eating Disorders devastate the lives of 30 million people of all gender and race in the United States, as reported by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Eating Disorders. Eating Disorders are illnesses characterized by irregular eating habits and extreme distress or anxiety about body weight or shape. While eating disorders often impact teenagers and young adult women, the truth is anyone can suffer from one.

Introduction to Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, and/or controlling behaviors centered around food, can be life-threatening to males and females. Eating disorders have a negative outcome on an individual’s quality of life in the area of self-image, completing important tasks, and maintaining relationships with important people in their lives. The longer the eating disorder continues, the harder it is to overcome.

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating are recognized as serious disorders. These disorders often lead to shame as well as physical ailments, making people more inclined to isolate during their episodes. The physical effects of eating disorders are extremely hard on the body, but they also can greatly affect a person’s self worth. While eating disorders can be hard to spot initially, there are definite warning signs that be recognized to get an individual help. For all three disorders, obsessions with food, body weight, and physical appearance may be signs of an eating disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is categorized by weight loss, difficulty maintaining appropriate body weight, and a distorted body image. Low self-esteem, compulsive, obsessive, and perfectionism are all commonalities in people with anorexia. Anorexics typically starve themselves and often use weight as a marker of control.

Physical Health Effects/What To Look For:

  • Underweight
  • Emaciated
  • Protruding bones
  • Sunken face
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Baby fine hair around face
  • Hair breakage, thinning, or excessive shedding
  • Brittle nails
  • Dizziness

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is a potentially life-threatening disorder centered around binging and purging of food, often after binge eating. Bulimics will often binge and purge food as a method of control, to try and rid themselves of self-loathing and insecure feelings they experience. Excessive vomiting leads to negative effects on the body. Purging can also happen through exercise, laxatives, or making themselves throw up.

Physical Health Effects/What To Look For:

  • Severe erosion and decay of teeth
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Sores in the throat and mouth
  • Inflammation of the esophagus
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Loss of menstruation
  • Russell’s sign or “calloused and discolored fingers” from purging
  • Irregular bowels

Binge Eating

Binge eating is an eating disorder centered around uncontrollable eating. This disorder affects as many men as women. An individual will compulsively overeat in a short period of time, and most often they feel unable to control their eating despite guilty feelings or being full.

Physical Health Effects/What To Look For:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Digestive issue
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Sleep Apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • High Cholesterol

Causes

Eating Disorders are intricate disorders. Typically, they are caused by a number of factors (such as a combination of biological, psychological, and/or environmental factors) that often

take root in a person during their youth. Biological and social factors may play a part in the manifestation of the eating disorder, as well as environmental and psychological factors, but it’s also important to remember that the signs and symptoms may differ from each disorder and their different stages.

Treatment

Complete recovery is possible for people with eating disorders. It is important to seek treatment early, particularly since people who struggle with eating disorders are predisposed to medical complications and suicide. Treatment plans range from therapy to nutritional counseling to medical care and medications. Often there is a combination of approaches used while working to reach a healthy weight, restore nutritional balance to the body, and heal any other behaviors that co-occur with a person’s eating disorder.

New Vista Behavioral Health is committed to helping you on your road to long term recovery. You are not alone. We are here to partner with you.

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